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French Socialist government's Roma policy under fire from EU

Eoma living in tents after being thrown ouf of a camp at Villeneuve-d'Ascq, near Lille, in 2012
Eoma living in tents after being thrown ouf of a camp at Villeneuve-d'Ascq, near Lille, in 2012 Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

The European Union (EU) has slammed France's policy towards Roma migrants, repeating criticisms made against right-wing former president Nicolas Sarkozy's government. Socialist Interior Minister Manuel Valls is under fire for claiming that most of the Roma in France should be kicked out of the country.

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he European Commission Vice-President responsible for justice, Viviane Reding, who caused a stir in 2010 by recalling the Nazi persecution of Roma when criticising the Sarkozy government, on Wednesday accused France of not putting into practice a plan to integrate Roma that was agreed with the EU.

In 2012 11,982 Roma were evicted from camps and shanty towns in France and more than 10,000 suffered the same fate in the first half of this year, according to a report by human rights group Amnesty International.

The European Commission, which has repeatedly questioned the legality of the government's actions, sent a reminder yesterday to Paris that the Roma people are EU citizens and therefore have the right to freedom of movement.

The commission would use "all the means at its disposition" of that right is not respected, spokesperson Olivier Bailly said, although he later said that noe disciplinary procedure is currently being discussed.

Shortly before the EU statement, Valls told the BFM TV channel that most Roma will never become part of French society.

"Some Roma families, often with childrren, are quite capable of assimilating into our society but they are a minority. They shouldn’t be discriminated against but we can’t burry our heads in the sand: Roma people should stay in their own country."

Valls later said that the majority of Roma should be deported, drawing criticism from human rights groups.

Amnesty International's Marion Cadier told RFI that the minister's remarks were perpetuating stereotypes.

Even some leaders of Valls's Socialist Party have expressed concern.

The party's first secretary, Harlem Désir, said Wednesday that he did not believe "in theories that certain populations can't be integrated".

Despite thousands of government-financed repatriations to Romania and Bulgaria, the number of Roma in France, around 20.000 people, has remained stable in the last few years.

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